Herbert Lomas (1924-2011)
I thought last night about Boulanger, baker
Of warm new bread, his own, with pearly nipples,
And the navel in his belly a pearl of great price.
Legs straight and strong, not bulging with ripples.
I kissed him many times. We had no sex.
I held him in my arms and touched his head,
Breathing gently against each other’s cheeks.
And six weeks later, his lovely wine and bread
Blown into pieces: Anzio Beachhead.
The listening Japanese: beauty like that
Of a wild cat: lotus lips and hawked
Eyebrows, olive skin, and widespread thighs,
Though little showing between. But stripped naked,
Rather plump, and strung up by his wrist
To a high bar, with a whipping sharp and quick
Between his thighs, it might be possible to break
The marble open of this smug conventionalist.
And Boulanger, full of hot metal, bomb-kissed.
Life after death: mere guesswork. Oblivion.
Oh to go back to the state we had before
We were born: that was the beautiful death. But how
To do it at night? For then I snore
Happily in my cups. The nothingness sleep can be
Is what I want in the morning. But with the blood
Empty of alcohol will the venom bring eternity?
We must be practical: death hardly could,
Once the decision’s made, be a question of mood.
The inorganic world of rock and water:
The mask of Tutankamoun: onyx eyes,
Tear-stained gold cheeks. The extraordinary way
It looks at you, looks through you. Childishly wise,
Sad about the mouth, how understandingly
He encourages one to go on trying. If God could ask
Like that, I’d obey his commandments, like his mask.
The goldsmith, moulding that face, certainly knew
And loved the godlike boy that shimmered through.
The camera can only revere. It can’t
Imagine what’s not there. Full, pursing lips,
Waiting perhaps to open, to receive, not sure;
Possibly venom to spit. One must know and strip
To meet a naked king: three thousand years BC
And yet it’s Christ: he judges not nor censors.
He looks at you with your eyes and you look back.
Even I could be happy too
Making anything as beautiful as you.
Death’s where we come from and very soon
Return: the world of rock and water. Let’s go
And eat: viaticum: the capsules and the whisky.
The unreality’s striking. I know
I’m dying and feel no different. It’s a bright
Sunny morning – a morning such as many people
Have died in. Of course I may revive. I feel
Nothing’s happened. I can’t believe it’s suicide.
I did some . . . and here I am, and have I died?
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